Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issued a stay of execution in the case of a man convicted of a 1998 murder who was set to be put to death hours later. Greitens decision was based on newly revealed DNA evidence that suggest Marcellus Williams may be innocent, according to CNN.

“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” Greitens said in a statement. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt. In light of new information, I am appointing a Board of Inquiry in this case.”

Williams, 48, went to trial in 2001 and was found guilty of murdering Felicia Gayle, a former reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who was stabbed 43 times in her home. Testimonies from his cellmate who claimed Williams confessed and an ex-girlfriend who claimed she saw him with scratches on his neck and the victim’s driver’s license played a major role in the conviction.

However, a string of physical evidence and new DNA evidence connected to an unknown assailant poke holes in an already flimsy case.

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“There is no physical evidence, no eyewitnesses that directly connect Williams to the murder, the DNA on the weapon wasn’t his, the bloody footprint at the murder scene wasn’t from Williams’ shoe and was a different size, and the hair fibers found weren’t his,” Kent Gipson, one of Williams’ attorneys,  told Al-Jazeera. “It was someone else that killed Gayle, not Williams.”

It is suspected that Williams’ girlfriend was looking to receive the $10,000 reward the family offered pending an arrest. However, according to Gipson, her testimony is the most questionable.

“These scratches would leave DNA traces on the victim, but Williams’ DNA was not found underneath the victim’s fingernails, just like it was someone else’s DNA that was found on the murder weapon,” Gipson said. “She also claimed she saw Williams with the victim’s driver’s license, which is impossible because Gayle’s license was left at the crime scene.”

The state is confident in Williams’ guilt because of other physical evidence, such as a laptop that belonged to Gayle’s husband which was recovered by police after he sold it. Williams was arrested weeks later on unrelated charges which is when he allegedly confessed to his cellmate.

Still, one has to wonder how Williams was convicted for murder with so much evidence contradicting his being involved that day.

Fortunately, Gov. Greitens stepped in not a moment too late and prevented Williams for being executed for a crime he very well may not have committed. If that’s the case, he’s tragically already spend nearly two decades in prison for something he didn’t do.


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